Software development has come a long way in recent history. In years gone by, software development was a simple process of identifying a problem and building a solution to either solve that problem or launch to market. Today software development has shifted, thanks in part to evolving methodologies on customer centricity, to a much more user-focused model. Understanding user needs is core to the software development process. If you need help working out how to understand your user needs, consider these tips.
Get In Front Of Them
Understanding user needs can’t be done from behind your desk or your computer screen, you have to get out to see your users. The best way to make sure you land on the right solution is to complete design research.
Involving your users in your design phase is the simplest way to sense check what your designing and whether your users will use it. Contextual enquiries are a great way to achieve this, but research takes time. A great option is to outsource your research, not only giving you time to focus on building, but it also gives you an impartial third party in the discovery phase.
Keep It Broad
Don’t allow yourself to get tricked into focusing on just one type of user, or the user you think is most likely to adopt your software. We are all guilty of cognitive biases, one of which is likely to impact who you believe is the ideal user. When understanding your user needs, go broad with your audience and be sure to go to both extremes.
This broad range of users allows you to gather much deeper insights into your audience, as well as the features you may decide on for your roadmap. The easiest way to stay broad is to identify users of other software, both similar to and completely different from your solution.
Map It Out
Another fantastic tool to help understand your user needs is story mapping. When you gather your users together, have them map out how they would get the task they are completing done if they used your software solution. It really can be that simple. Having users map out their individual story, helps you understand all the different ways in which people do things.
The subtle differences between your users could help identify features to test or how you might manage your releases for your software. By mapping the stories down on post-it notes, you give yourself a tangible way of understanding the user’s needs.
Find Their Motivation
When you are putting together the needs of your users, don’t just pay attention to the physical ways in which they interact with or adopt your software solution. Instead, try to uncover the deeper motivations behind why they do what they do.
The easiest way to discover this ‘why’ is a root cause analysis on the features they expect to see. The simple act of asking why a minimum of five times will help uncover the motivational insights you need. Once you understand what it is they are trying to do, you can better design the features of your software.
User design is the best way to achieve product-market fit. Gone are the days of obsolete software solutions that were designed in isolation of the user. Smart software developers now include the user in every single stage of development. From initiation to product roadmaps and right through to acceptance testing, the user should be at the core of everything you do. If you’re looking for ways to better understand the needs of your customer, consider these simple ways to get started.
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